Red Green Labour and the Green New Deal

A new report by the Green New Deal Group should be welcomed. It provides a valuable campaigning tool for those of us in the Labour Party who believe that the party should be Green as well as Red and should identify addressing climate change as a central concern and an important part of its electoral appeal, writes Peter Allen. You can read the report here : https://www.greennewdealgroup.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/09/GNDJobsReport9-18.pdf

Called  ‘Jobs in Every Constituency’ it has the subtitle ‘THIS TIME IT MUST BE DIFFERENT 10 years after 2008 economic crisis’. A follow up to its original report, published in that year, it notes that, since the crash, there has been much more discussion about the state’s role in improving the UK’s infrastructure. Meanwhile important technological changes have reduced the cost of green energy and mean that a Green New Deal is even more achievable than it was a decade ago, whilst the need for it is ever more urgent.

The report’s emphasis on a ‘ Jobs in Every Constituency ‘ approach is an attempt to widen public support for a shift to a “ jobs rich decarbonisation future” including in pro Brexit ‘ left behind’ communities. It  includes the following manifesto commitments which it would like political parties to include in their programmes for the next election.

  • Making the UK’s 30 million buildings super-energy-efficient to dramatically reduce energy bills, fuel poverty and greenhouse gas emissions;
  • Accelerating the shift to renewable electricity supplies and storage, given their dramatic drop in price worldwide and increased  availability;
  • Tackling the housing crisis by building affordable, highly insulated new homes, predominantly on brown field sites;
  • Transport policy that concentrates on rebuilding local public transport links;
  • Properly maintaining the UK’s road and rail system;
  • Encouraging electric vehicles for business and personal use and sharing.

Each local community/ parliamentary constituency should produce its own plans for implementing the above measures which are “labour intensive, take place in every locality and consist of work that is difficult to automate …..and would provide a secure career structure for decades. This would require a significant numbers of apprenticeships and the range of long-term jobs provide increased opportunities for the self-employed and local small businesses. This growth in local economic activity would in turn create other jobs to service this increased spending”

How would the money be found to pay for such measures ? The report suggests a possible role  for  targeted quantitative easing ( QE) , with central government creating money not to bail out the banks as happened last time but to fund the greening of our infrastructure. This might be combined with borrowing during what is a time of very low interest rates, increased taxes on the wealthy and collecting taxes from those currently unemployed or in precarious employment who would be moving into secure, well paid employment as part of the programme. It suggests that the programme would achieve long term economic ,social and ecological benefits worth many times the money spent.

“enormous sums would need to be used judiciously to ensure a realistically timetabled, carefully costed, and hence non-inflationary, nationwide initiative to train and employ a fairly paid ‘carbon army’ to work on this nationwide infrastructure programme…..(involving)extensive consultation with local government, businesses and communities to establish what such a programme should look like on the ground”.

The original Green New Deal Group was made up of 8 economists and campaigners and a single politician, Caroline Lucas of the Green Party. Last week’s letter to the Guardian had 13 signatories, including MPs from 4 Westminster parties ( Labour, Lib Dem, Green and SNP)  . The lead signatory was Vince Cable whilst Labour’s signatory was the relatively unknown David Drew, MP for Stroud and Shadow Farming and Rural Affairs Minister . Socialists may be unhappy at the prominence given to Vince Cable, particularly in view of the hostile comments he has made about Labour under Corbyn in recent days. I generally think that it is unwise to question people’s motives ( even politicians!) and hope that Cable may be wanting to reestablish his reputation as a progressive politician as he prepares to leave the stage. In any event it must be helpful to have the leader of the Liberal Democrats signed up to a set of proposals which go further than Labour’s 2017 manifesto in greening and transforming the UK economy.

No doubt many of us would say that the proposals should be more radical still. In particular the division between public and private sector involvement in the programme is left unclear. Moreover growing numbers of Labour activists, myself included, would question the whole notion of governments having to fund spending through either taxation or borrowing, preferring instead to accept the principles of Modern Monetary Theory  (see here http://www.actvism.org/en/politics/modern-monetary-theory-stephanie-kelton/ )

Nevertheless I think that ecosocialists should support the Green New Deal Report and Labour members should actively promote it within the party, at this year’s Conference and beyond. We should  welcome the Green New Deal Group‘s multi party approach and engage positively with it, in the hope of increasing its influence within  the party and of  further radicalising its approach.

The rising tide: Kerala 2018 flood

It will not be enough for us to rue the past, writes Arundhati Roy.

This year in Kerala, the monsoon that we long for, and the rivers that we pretend to love, are talking back to us. Certainly, for me, the rain was the ink in my pen, and the river, the Meenachil, drove my story. They made me the writer that I am.

Now their fury is unimaginable, and the scale of the disaster and peoples’ suffering is still unfolding. The Army, the navy, various government agencies, local communities, an extraordinary collective of fisher folk, journalists, and thousands of ordinary people have shown exemplary courage and fellow-feeling, risking their lives to bring others to safety. Help and money is pouring in. More help and more money will be needed. And yet, as the waters recede, revealing oceans of plastic and debris, we are faced with the fact that it would be dishonest of us to treat this calamity purely as a natural disaster in which we humans played no part.We know by now that in the era of global warming and climate change, the mountains and the coastal areas will be the first to pay the price.

Kerala without the floods

The intensity and the frequency of climate catastrophes will only increase. California is burning. Kerala is drowning. Our beloved Kerala is a strip of land sandwiched between the mountains and the sea. We could not be more vulnerable.Unbridled greed, the shocking denuding of forest land for mining and illegal development of resorts and homes for the wealthy, illegal construction that has blocked all natural drainage, the destruction of natural water storage systems, the blatant mismanagement of dams, have all played a huge part in what is happening. How could it be that the Central Water Commission did not predict this flood? How could it be that dams that are supposed to control floods ended up releasing water from their reservoirs at the height of the crisis, magnifying the disaster several times over?

With waters receding, Kerala may be staring at a ’second disaster’

Today funds are pouring in to the Chief Minister’s Distress Relief Fund— much of it hard-earned money from ordinary people, believing quite correctly, that it is only the government that can co-ordinate relief work that will reach the most far-flung places where the most vulnerable people live.

And yet, many of us worry about these funds being controlled by the very machinery that ignored past warnings in the first place. The Madhav Gadgil Committee Report, for instance, predicted just such a scenario if the government did not take serious steps to control unplanned development propelled by corrupt politicians and avaricious businessmen and industrialists.

Disasters such as this one can bring out the best as well as the worst in people. It can bring people together, or it can widen the fissures and reward those whose deeds are to some extent responsible for creating the catastrophe.

We have seen how during other disasters, like the Tsunami, or Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans, ruthless developers moved in to try and take over the lands and homes of the most vulnerable people. Here in India, sadly, various forces are at work, doing their best to spread poison and disaffection between communities, at a time when there should only be love and concern. Fortunately, the people of Kerala have never fallen prey to this, and are unlikely to now, in their moment of grief and hardship.

We hope and trust that in the days and weeks to come, while people try to put their devastated lives back together, the Kerala government will pay special attention to its most disadvantaged people, in particular dalits and forest-dwelling Adivasi people who do not have the power or the means to elbow themselves to the front of the queue for aid and relief.

It will not be enough for us to rue the past. Rebuilding and rehabilitation cannot be taken to mean a return to business as usual. We will have to take steps to correct the environmental imbalance we have created. If not, God’s Own Country will cease to be fit for human habitation. For all its fury, perhaps the 2018 flood is only a very gentle warning.

The week